Generation III Chrysler Mini-Van Ignition Switch Replacement
(Without Removing the Key Lock Tumbler)


Symptoms

I recently (May 2012) bought this low-miliage (110,000) 1999 Chrysler Town & Country Limited in northwest Arkansas, about 600 miles from where I live. I drove it several days while there and then the 600 miles home. The day after I got home I started it and moved it to a different place on my driveway. Later, I started it again and it ran about 3 seconds and died. I did that two more times and then it wouldn't start at all.

Apparently there are three possible locations for intermittent starting, interior power, and instrument panel display problems. First might be the solder joints of the instrument panel main connector, second is the BCM, and third is the ignition switch. I first removed the instrument panel (a tedious job) and resoldered the connector pins on the circuit board. Unfortunately, that didn't help and actually made the display more erratic for some reason. I then replaced the BCM. That corrected my starting problem, but the displays were still intermittent. I pulled the display panel again and went over the solder joints again, this time using my favorite pencil soldering iron. There was no improvement.

In searching the web I found a couple of hints that led me to consider an intermittent in the ignition switch. While switching the car from the OFF position to the first ON trying to get the instrument display to light up properly and consistently, I NOTICED THAT THE TEMPERATURE NEEDLE WOULD WIGGLE JUST A LITTLE WHEN I BEGAN TO TURN THE KEY TO THE FIRST ON POSITION. I did that several times to try to find that 'sweet' spot that made the needle move. Then I saw that the odometer and shift position indicators would light up when I got to that spot. Sometimes they would stay on as I turned the switch all the way to the first ON position. Usually the display would respond properly in the run position, and would stay on after I started the engine. BTW: THE ENGINE WILL START AND RUN WITHOUT THE INSTRUMENT PANEL CONNECTED.

I decided to replace the ignition switch. However, the new switch didn't fix my problem. I'm not even sure that these high quality switches would ever fail, but if you think you need to replace yours, these photos and comments may help. There is a link to a short video lower on the page.
Ignition Switch Left Side
Ignition Switch Right Side

Ignition Switch Replacement

Remove the steering column plastic cover. The bottom half of the cover connects to the top with three Phillips head screws, one on the left and two on the right. The two halves also snap together. The black rubber cover over the top near the dash is held on with two Torx screws (#20), but you may not need to remove it. As you see in the photos, the dash covers were still off from my instrument panel work.

Remove the tamper-proof screw that holds the ignition switch to the key-lock tumbler body. It's the #10 with the hole in the end to clear the little pin in the center of the head of the screw. (The screw has already been removed in this photo.)
Remove Screw

A white tab is visible through a hole in the body of the switch. Press the tab with a screwdriver tip while carefully pulling the switch away from the steering column.
Press Tab

The switch is separated from the steering column. The white tabs that help hold the switch in place are on the right. The little brown rod may be the "key in the switch" actuator. The channel shaped metal around the brown rod is the part that rotates when the key is turned. It fits in a rectangular hole in the switch.
Loose Switch

Views of the switch with the cables connected. There are two small connectors - lift up on the black tabs to release them and then pull. Press the tab on the big white connector to release it, then pull it out.
Outside of Switch
Inside of Switch

This is the switch with the cables disconnected. There are some pretty heavy gauge wires in that main connector. The switch must handle a lot of power. The circuit board in the instrument panel has two high power resistors that also handle a lot of power. At least on mine they get pretty hot when the panel is operating.
Disconnected Switch

This video shows the new switch in place and how the covers fit. There are some still photos at the end of the video that show the removal of some of the dash panels. Those same photos should appear on another page one of these days when I describe how I removed the instrument cluster from this same vehicle.


Good Luck!

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8/30/12